• Brad Gibbon

Will virtual tours remain relevant in a post-COVID marketplace?

Summary

There has been a surge in demand for virtual tours in commercial real estate due to this pandemic. Rightfully so, some are questioning whether we will continue to use virtual tours when we can visit spaces in person. In this post we first understand some use cases for virtual tours. This will help explain why adoption has risen so dramatically but dispel the idea that this may be a short-term solution. The long-term viability of virtual tours lies in their ability to provide editable information. Those solutions that provide higher level engagement will continue to grow in the post-pandemic marketplace.


What is a Virtual Tour?


It includes anything from photography of a physical space to a virtual environment that enables us to move around the space as if we were walking around it. Virtual tours can have varying levels of realism, from photo-realism to graphical representation. Video games in a sense are just virtual tours that are built to entertain.


Why do we use Virtual Tours?


Use Case 1: Experience

We want to experience the space. Did you have plans to travel to Paris but can’t during the pandemic? With Google maps and some virtual tours of the louvre and the eiffel tower, you can get pretty close (though without the food). Virtual tours allow us to experience a location without needing to go there ourselves.


Use Case 2: Information

We want to learn more about the space. Some virtual tours can embed information about the space that is accessible during the tour. While touring an office space, you can see the rent, occupancy, or improvements costs. The second use case is about providing a vehicle in which you can relay key information to users in a way which is more easily understood.

Use Case 3: Creation

We want to create a space. Construction companies can use tours to represent the final product of their building plans, displaying critical information within the tours and allowing stakeholders to propose changes. By making the changes in real time, users are able to understand the impact of the changes on the project. Tenants may want to tour a vacant office, then furnish it to see what it would look like if they moved in. This use case flips the relationship between user and tour, encouraging users to create the tour that they want instead of the one they see.


Why are Virtual Tours Gaining Traction?


So, what’s driving adoption in commercial real estate? Currently, use case 1. For the past couple of months, tenants and brokers could not visit a vacant office space to view it. Unfortunately, most tenants will not lease a space without seeing it in person. Virtual tours provide a way for tenants to get their ‘in-person’ fix, while staying safely at home. So there has been a mad dash to embrace any technology that would help a tenant experience what it is like to be in the office and virtual tours were ready to fill that need.


Based on this fact, many wonder if virtual tours will fall by the wayside when tenants are able to see the site in person. When things go back to “normal”, will virtual tours go away?

No. Tours that provide only an experience of the space will see a decline in use but those that provide information and creation will not. Tenants will prefer to visit the space in person if the cost to do so is low enough. But the speed and ease at which a tenant can understand the characteristics and potential of the space cannot be matched by in-person visits.


This is where we will see the long-term adoption of virtual tours. Programs that are able to relay critical information and provide users the ability to engage with the space will remain relevant. Tenants will still tour the empty office suite and look around, but they won’t be able to visualize what it would look like with their employees. Industry standards before COVID-19 for achieving a similar experience were slow and expensive. Now that tenants, landlords, and brokers have experienced the next generation of tour solutions, they will not go back.


Result


Over the next 6 - 12 months, we will see a shift in demand for virtual tours. Those tours that can only provide a space experience will be replaced by those which provide added value and functionality. Those products that can provide tenants information and editability will grow. Customers will demand a program that has, at its core, information and customization. A program like FastOffice.


To learn more about how you can provide your clients with the tools to succeed, reach out to Support@fastoffice.com

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